This past week we marked the ninth year since my precious nephew died, suddenly and tragically.
The passing of time does not diminish our memory, and we think of him often. He was a cheerful lad, quick to hug, full of smiles and dreams. We miss him.
When we heard the news, we left almost immediately to be with our family. The grief you hear about happening to others had now happened to us. Those times can be surreal… you keep breathing and moving, and yet your mind is trying to process what happened.
I was given a task when we arrived at the coast where my family lived. We realized that many people would come to the memorial. He was popular, and loved.
And so my brother asked if I would organize the food… for 1000 people.
I said yes, without hesitation. Because that is what you do in times like that. You all chip in.
I started phoning a list of contacts he gave me… and offers of food came pouring in. He had business connections with a Vegetable Grower, and we asked for fruit and veggies to make platters. A cupcake business donated dozens of cupcakes. Sandwiches, cookies, squares, you name it were promised and delivered.
So much that the little kitchen at this rather large church was overwhelmed… but here too, on the day of his memorial, volunteers stepped up to the task of organizing platters and putting them out.
And 1000 people were fed, many of them his high school buddies and team mates.
Somehow, the outpouring of food helps… I can’t explain why in such tragic moments… but it is something people can do.
That evening we cut up leftover strawberries and filled my brother and his wife’s freezer. We sat, surrounded by food, just glad to be together.
We called a charity that gives food to Vancouver’s Eastside, and they took the rest of the leftovers, feeding the homeless that evening. Later we found out that more food had been delivered to the Salvation Army. And that too was comforting.
Just weeks ago, our friends received the devastating news that their daughter had died in a car accident. She was loved, and well known by many. We ached (and still do!) for her husband, her children, the large extended family.
We were told at her memorial about the generosity of food… to feed well over 700 people. Businesses, individuals, others impacted by her life wanted to give… and so they did.
Again, the leftovers fed people on the streets… a gift of love that brought comfort to the family. It was a beautiful outpouring of love and compassion.
After my nephew’s funeral we prepared to come home… that is the hard part of grief. Life goes on, people return to work and life, there seems a semblance of normalcy, when in reality everything has changed.
I so dislike the saying that grief gets better with time… it is time that changes us. A death or loss changes us forever. It becomes part of our story. And yet we see so much love and glimpses of good even as we mourn and cry.
We came home that day nine years ago with a lot of celery. It hadn’t been given away, and needed to be used up. I couldn’t bear to see it wasted.
So I came home and made cream of celery soup. Making soup is very therapeutic. I had never made this kind before, and I honestly don’t know where I got the recipe.
Later that week, I went to visit a dear elderly grandmother who was deep in grief – her grandson, a soldier had been killed in Afghanistan. I decided to bring her some soup.
We looked at his pictures and we talked about grief. “You made me soup!” she said, pleased. “Cream of Celery” I said…
“Really?” she replied. “That is my very favourite kind!”
I couldn’t believe it… but God knew… I have come to believe with all my heart that God enters into our suffering, God cares, God shows up. We felt that presence and peace in little ways and big ways: like mountains of food to feed the hungry and cream of celery soup to comfort a grieving grandmother.
We were shown much compassion... I was looking for a graphic and found this in my files. I think it fits.
With that compassion we were able to pass it on... for that too brought comfort and healing.
Cream of celery soup, anyone?